Monday, 27 September 2010

Review: Richard Thompson - Dream Attic

Dream AtticRichard Thompson's latest release finds its prolific creator reveling in fresh artistic abundance three years on from 2007's Sweet Warrior. The album is a patchwork of performances pieced together from a few US dates, ordinarily an unlikely recipe for consistency but given the quality of the musicianship (Dream Attic once again features long-term collaborator Pete Zorn, returning to Thompson after a sojourn with Steeleye Span on tour last year) it is hard to believe the absent takes could be any less immaculate. This collection again showcases Thompson's peerless prowess on guitar and combative, uncompromising songwriting, typified by biting, banker-baiting opener The Money Shuffle (think Show of Hands meets 10cc) and modern murder ballad Sidney Wells. However, Thompson is most affecting when more personal and A Brother Slips Away, referring to the death of Davy Graham, proves the master guitarist doesn't need to be playing at full pelt to impress. His bleakest poetry is reserved for mortality-cursing Crimescene: 'You plan and he plans / You sleep while he steals / Your wheel can only spin / Inside of other wheels'.

Thompson's women are 'Jezebel', 'a piece of work', 'bugging me' - but his men are murderers, bankers and Sting (Here Comes Geordie). As unfazed as he sounds aggrieved, as sensitive as he sounds vindictive, he despairs of human frailties and failings. Albeit without the same majesty, Among the Gorse, Among the Grey evokes 1974's dystopian, world-weary End of the Rainbow but imbued with the energy of the stage, he rages, rails and rallies. At times, he might even be jolly, the prevailing lyrical bleakness not precluding Thompson from singing with tongue sometimes in cheek. Not all songs quite find their mark; a couple drag and at seventy-two minutes this is almost an exhausting listen in a single sitting, despite romping home with Bad Again and epic closer If Love Whispers Your Name.

Dream Attic finds Thompson in rude form, more than forty years into a recording career of such consistency and craft that comparisons cannot flatter. Is he Britain's Bob Dylan? No-one really comes closer but Richard Thompson remains resolutely his own man.

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